I'm going to admit something right off the bat: I'm not the most dedicated follower of the Castlevania series. I know little, if any, of the genealogy of the Belmonts. All I know about the series is the ongoing story of vampire hunters on a quest to return the haemovorous Dracula to a state of dormancy. Castlevania 64 follows the same story. After playing the game, I wish I had adorned myself with a garlic necklace beforehand.
Jon's review did a pretty good job in describing some of the technical woes abundant throught out the campaign, as well as the frustrating challenge level. Yet I found the technical flaws as a part of the aggravation rather than a side order. One ingredient was the camera system—on foot, it was at its best, inconsistently manageable. At its worst… it got me so angry, there were times when soap seemed like a nice snack. I don't like it when a camera has more control over me than I have it, especially during boss battle and pivotal jumping sequences.
It can also be said the targeting system didn't do much to improve things. Jon wasn't kidding about the cumbersome nature of Reinhardt's whip. Building words onto his à la Scrabble is unnecessary. Yet, I found some improvement with Miss Fernandez—writing about her struggles would only be fair (and I'm not doing this because of the modern era of gender equality).
Carrie's magic, when fully charged, is an effective long-range projectile that can lock onto, home in on, and damage multiple enemies in one shot. Once launched, Carrie's not as vulnerable as Jon claims her to be—she's equipped with paddles as a secondary, close-range weapon for use during her recharge period. Under certain circumstances, this missile-paddle combination works pretty well.
However, the lock-on system isn't as user-friendly as it should have been. There is no freedom in choosing specific targets, and this gets irritating in crowded areas and boss conflicts. I wanted to use the long-range shot on what posed the greatest threat, regardless how far away it is. Instead, it attacks the closer, weaker enemies first, eventually fading before doing any damage to my desired target. This, I felt, was a silly decision on the programmers' part.
With such technical errors for a 1999 Nintendo 64 release, it's easy to ask, "Isn't the 4.5 rating a little high?" Yes, but Castlevania 64 did have its moments. Whatever voice work found in the game was better than it's been given credit for, and the violin solo on the menu screen was beautiful. But what I liked most was the subtle Catholic undertones in the otherwise atheistic medium known as video gaming.
Judging Castlevania 64 as its own game, it is a symphony as beautiful as playing Beethoven's Fur Elise on a kazoo. Comparing it to other, similar games on the Nintendo 64, Castlevania 64 would be more grating on the ears. It only takes one sentence from Jon's review to sum up Castlevania 64: "[The Castlevania] series is better off remaining a two-dimensional side-scroller." Castlevania 64 is just not the proper introduction of the ongoing struggle of human vs. vampire into 3D. This is one game I don't expect to see rise from the grave anytime soon.
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